27 March 2015

conchiglie carbonara with jamón serrano and charred brussels sprouts

Food fads are often just cruel jokes. The people who decide these things are probably having a good laugh after having made kale the darling of the vegetable world.

Well step over kale, there's a new previously-unwanted vegetable taking over: brussels sprouts.

I recently spent a few days in Los Angeles, and I swear, every restaurant I went to featured brussels sprouts as a stand-alone appetizer or small plate item. Gone are the days when your mom just boiled this poor little cabbage wannabe. The creativity of hipster chefs has put the lowly sprout into the spotlight.

Normally I'm not a big fan of creamy, Americanized carbonara dishes, but this recipe stands out and uses brussels sprouts in a way I'd never thought of before.


½ lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated 
12 oz. conchiglie (shells) pasta 
Kosher salt 
2 oz. finely chopped jamón serrano (or other smoked meat such as proscuitto, pancetta or bacon)
½ tsp. red pepper 
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
⅓ cup grated Pecorino cheese
2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add brussels sprout leaves and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add jamón serrano and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to keep pepper from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms.

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Add Pecorino; toss to combine. Remove from heat; mix in egg yolks. Add reserved brussels sprout leaves; toss, adding pasta cooking liquid (or hot water) as needed to thin sauce.

Serve pasta topped with more Pecorino.

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